Why the bond between fans in the stadium and the players is stronger

By Tony Attwood

There is a piece in the Guardian today which says, “The bond the match-going contingent shares with his players feels stronger than with any Arsenal team for many a year.”

Maybe that’s so, although it seems rather a simplistic and possibly misleading claim.  When a club is winning, winning and winning, as Arsenal has been of late, everyone celebrates together and so a bond seems to be formed.   That there might not be much of a bond between the club and fans at West Ham United or Leicester City at the moment would hardly be a surprise given their positions in the league and the hype of expectation the media indulged in for the clubs in the summer, but it is there at Arsenal.

The Guardian’s piece also suggests that “Arsenal’s £79m summer transfer net spend looks meaty” although it notes it is dwarfed by Chelsea’s spending.  But really that is misleading, for the self-same paper has published all the figures from the last window (if only their correspondent would walk across the office to pick up their library copy to check the data).

A selection of the  net transfer figures from the Guardian for just a few of the teams in the Premier League in the last window read

  • Chelsea £223m
  • Manchester United £174m
  • West Ham United £146m
  • Newcastle United £115m
  • Tottenham Hotspur £113m
  • Arsenal £90m

And just to make that clear Chelsea spent 247% of the amount Arsenal forked out.  With Manchester United it was 193%, and even little West Ham United used up 162% of Arsenal’s net spend.

So the expenditure by Arsenal was not that meaty when compared with the other big boys, and if there is an extra link between players and fans (which I would agree there is) it hasn’t come from that.

This link is something that has been growing for some time.  It was, for example, highly noticeable on 24 February this year, when Arsenal beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1.  Wolverhampton played a most appallingly cynical game which united the crowd against them, for having scored in the 10th minute they retreated into an 11-man defence for the rest of the game and simply refused to play football.   So when Arsenal scored (technically it was put down as an own goal) in what seemed to be the 7th minute of injury time, the stadium erupted.

And that eruption stayed. I have never known the stadium, the area around the ground, and even streets some distance from the ground, that noisy after a match.   Arsenal had overcome the most awful negative cynical style of play, and got the victory in the last seconds – and that allowed the expression of a huge link between players and fans.

But there is more than this, for I think there is a stronger recognition by the club of the need to link with the match-going fans than we have seen for some time.

One of the most obvious expressions of this is the establishment of a noisy, vigorous, bouncing up and down group of black-shirted fans behind the goal at the clock end.  While the gnarled old timers in the north bank can become frustrated when things don’t go Arsenal’s way, this new manifestation of support really does show everyone how support should be – and it continues throughout the game.

Plus there is the song.   As I have commented before, we now have our own song, a song unique to Arsenal, and “North London Forever” is sung by a huge number of people in the stadium immediately before kick off at each game, and that really does make an impact.

And I think the feeling is better not just because of the fans in the stadium, but an increased willingness of the club to listen to supporters through organisations like the Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association 

Of course, I have no idea what is going to happen on the pitch: we might charge ahead and win the league, or we might end up third – which will then be painted by the media as a failure and a setback (forgetting that the media universally predicted Arsenal would finish this season in fifth).  But I do think there is a new impetus in the ground, and a new positive feeling among fans which goes beyond the run of success this season.

The united decision of journalists to write off Arsenal this year before the season started has made those scribblers look even more pathetic than they looked last season with their hysteria over the first three games, their childish claims to be using a “supercomputer” to predict the league outcome, and their abject refusal to recognise that over the last 35 games of last season Arsenal were the third best performing team in the league.

But those same journalists now praising Arsenal remain poised ready to start snarling once again.   What stands against them is the unification of the crowd in the ground and the players on the pitch.  Long may it last.

8 Replies to “Why the bond between fans in the stadium and the players is stronger”

  1. “But those same journalists now praising Arsenal remain poised ready to start snarling once again. What stands against them is the unification of the crowd in the ground and the players on the pitch. Long may it last.”

    Hear hear to that.

    But Will it?

    Will the journalist start snarling again? Of course, they will. And if so, will that ‘unification’ that Arteta and the club have worked so hard on hold? I have my doubts.

    I have stated on here many times how disappointed and frustrated I have been with the way our fans turned against Wenger in particular and the club in general. Now, I know we wasn’t as successful on the pitch as we were, but our ‘slump’ was no worse, in fact nowhere near as bad as Liverpool had endured, or indeed Spurs were, and still are enduring.

    Yet the vitriol and even hatred directed at Wenger in particular, some of our own players, and the club in general, was way way beyond anything directed at either of those 2 clubs, managers and players. So why was that?

    The snarling media of course!

    Their hatred for Wenger and their general dislike of the club in general that had manifested itself over the years, with monika’s such as ‘Lucky Lucky’ Arsenal, ‘Boring Boring’ Arsenal, ‘Highbury the Library’ as well as the false accusations of bribery from all those years ago, rose to the surface and spewed it’s bile all over the back pages on an almost daily basis. No wonder some of our fans buckled under this endless onslaught.

    Measure that against the general tone of love, admiration and sympathy afforded those 2 over the years. Yes of course we have the odd ex player sticking his head above the parapet giving them pelters. The odd scribbler ready to tell a few home truths, but by and large, no matter what, the media maintains the love.

    Yes they may of won nothing again this year but next year will be their year, you wait and see.

    Yes Arsenal may of won the FA CUP. Yes they May of finished runners up. But that’s simply not good enough for Arsenal. Xhaka out! Wenger out! EVERYBODY OUT!

    And so, it went on.

    Fortunately, I believe our managers hard work in building bridges, allied to our crop of young home-grown talent, allied to the undeniable investment from our owners, allied to the relative success and promise of the last couple of years, will afford us at least a little respite from the media bile, but believe me any hint of us falling back, as you say Tony, 3rd should do it, and the abuse will return.

    The question is, will the fans be turned as they were before? Only time will tell.

    By the way, my faith in this manager and group of players has never wavered, hence my £5 ew at 50/1 is looking pretty good.

    Journalists. What do they know?

  2. I believe that the supporters are sensitive to the fact that at Arsenal, the kids coming from the youth ranks do get a serious chance or rather are seen as a long term investment and respected as such.

    The chants of ‘going back to school’ were sweet and hilarious. The lad can be proud to be a Gunner. I’m sure it will motivate him that much more.

    This makes the Emirates more of a magnet for young players, which can compensate the negativity that comes out from deadwood journalists day after day

  3. I think we are beyond the time of negativity and it’s not because everyone has suddenly realized they were wrong all along. It’s because winning is the only thing that ever mattered. Fans wanted the team to win and media were critical because a lot was not going right for the club. Now that the team is winning why would anyone complain or hate? I’d wish the club to win PL but personally I’d be content with consistently performing. Much like Liverpool who even though never win PL, consistently compete with City.

  4. Honestly, I think Arsenal can harness this media negativity? Galvanise the team and supporters, a mental fortitude that can strength us. Nothing says FU better than a team fighting for each other.
    Witness to a debate from a Tottenham supporter who kept referring us as the “Woolwich”, but withdrew when one Arsenal supporter retorted “Arsenal” moved and have been winning trophies for North London since the early 1900’s hundred’s, and our noisy neighbours were a London borough since 1960’s only.
    Spin the negativity I guess.

  5. @Jack,

    well Pool! do now, but go back less then 10 years and for a long stretch they were not contenders, by a long shot. Yet at no point did the negativity that was unleashed upon Arsenal for more then 15 years (during which they still won 3 FA Cups) reach them.

    So the negativity was far from ‘non-results’ based. UA has published enough examples of this in the past 15 years

  6. @Chris

    I don’t see criticism of Arsenal anymore in the media so am wondering what magically changed and what is this that coincidentally happened when Arsenal are starting to consistently produce results on the pitch.

    If in the mentioned 15yrs (which is a bit of an exaggeration but point taken) you are referring to period stretching to final years under Wenger then consider that fans fully supported Wenger until the latter years when frustrations grew at seemingly cyclical patterns of under-achievement. Media is merely a platform upon which these frustrations come to fore.

    About Liverpool and negativity. I think that after the long periods of underachieving people wrote them off which for me is far worse. Of course their fortunes changed with Klopp but people didn’t expected much from them. Like Tottenham.

  7. Craig Burley is criticising Arteta in the All or Nothing documentary. Another agenda-toting pundit, based on his statement “but I haven’t seen it”.

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